Liberating the Average Bicycle w/ Green Gear Cycling

Having grown up in the bicycle business, Hanna Scholz, President of Green Gear Cycling, says she feels lucky to have been introduced early to the freedom and benefits of a bicycle for her main transportation. The company, which makes high quality, easily transportable bicycles, was founded by her father and uncle who were avid bike racers in the 60’s and 70’s. Their desire to live a car-free lifestyle became the basis for Green Gear Cycling, which creates bicycles and bike lifestyle gear to support others, including young families, who share that desire.

As a recent participant in the RAIN Eugene Accelerator Program, Scholz sat down with our team to answer a few questions about what got her started with the company and what she is most excited to glean from the program.

Bike Friday seems to really value this “lifestyle inclusive” bike model…

The goal was to build a bike that allows people to take their personal transportation with them anywhere in the world. The focus was a high quality fit and easy to ride bike that had the ability to fold and pack away for easy transport. A high quality bicycle built to fit each particular person’s needs and lifestyle is liberating and creates all the great benefits bicycles can offer.

What is the biggest challenge your company has faced so far?

We have faced many challenges over our 23 year history.  One big set of challenges in the last several years was around our bike model named the Tikit. Launching this new bike model required a lot of special tooling and production training  It turned out to be far more expensive and complicated to build than we planned. We lost money on the first bikes we delivered and used up all the investment capital we had raised without getting the bike to a place where it was profitable enough to pay back the investment. Then we had the biggest recall in the company history on that same bike.

Wow, that must’ve been pretty hard for your company.

It was. Afterwards, we raised the price of the bike to almost double the original price, turning it into a different bike for a different customer group than we originally planned. We had to lay off a bunch of people we had hired to build the tikit because we couldn’t afford them and sales were not supporting that delivery capacity at the new prices.

How did you navigate the recall?

When the recall happened, we communicated right away with our customers, dealers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is the national organization that oversees product recalls. We went through a process of testing and re-design on the part that was recalled—a handlebar stem—and then we replaced them on all the bikes we could find. This was approximately 4,000 handlebar stems that each had to be painted the correct color for each customer’s bike. We knew it could put us out of business, but we still wanted to do the right thing.

How did people respond to the recall?

Customers and dealers really appreciated how we consistently kept them updated with the latest information and were honestly concerned for people’s safety. Some customers and dealers even sent us flowers and chocolates to lift our spirits. I think our honest communication kept us in business.

What’s next for Green Gear Cycling?

We need to take Green Gear Cycling to the next level. This can be defined several ways, starting with improving the company’s online presence and communication to better share what we offer.  It also includes updating our vision and focus to serve the needs of a younger group of people than the baby boomers who have been our main customers in the past 23 years.

The next level also means growing the company to the next level of revenue ($7 to 10 Million) that allows us to capitalize on an economy of scale for our purchasing materials and production efficiency.

Is that what spurred your involvement in our Accelerator Program?

I have been insulated in growing up in my families business and have realized I need to learn new perspectives, develop a peer support group and better resource contacts to develop my own clear vision of what I want to turn Green Gear Cycling into. Being in RAIN is definitely doing all of this for me and I am very pleased with all the great support. The RAIN program is really opening my eyes to possibilities and the people I am getting to meet is a valuable resource I have not known how to find in the past.

Where do you see yourself at the end of the program? In a year?

I see myself with my own clear vision of what I want to turn my company into with a clear plan of what it will take as well as connection to people and resources to accomplish this. Next year I expect to have these changes in place and starting to grow the company in this new vision.

What makes Eugene a great place to work for your company?

Eugene attracts people who care strongly about quality of life, the joys of the outdoor environment, active lifestyles and meaningful work. This is a great match with our company’s values and mission so we are able to find employees that share those things to.

To learn more about Green Gear Cycling or to purchase one of their bikes, visit their website.